THE HERALD has uncovered the web of companies and directors behind proposals to take control of Parc Howard.
Having seen internal Council documents and emails, this newspaper is able to expose that discussions have been taking place between representatives of the County Council and Loca Ventures Ltd for some months.
Those discussions have resulted in very detailed proposals being made to the local authority in respect of the scheme to take Parc Howard into private hands. It is evident from the restricted circle of officers and Executive Board members who have been briefed about the scheme that local Town Council and local county councillors have been deliberately kept in the dark about the stage negotiations between the parties have reached.
The County Council is looking to offload the operation of some parks and play areas to community and town councils in Carmarthenshire as a means of saving money.
Over the past three years, Carmarthenshire Council has saved £44 million by slashing non-statutory services, including parks and play areas.
In a bizarre meeting with Llanelli Town Council earlier this year, then Executive Board member for Technical Services Colin Evans told stunned councillors that he would give no information about which parks the Council wished to offload as it was not obliged to do so.
Part of the proposals include a transfer of employees from the Council to the development company and the Council continuing to contribute to the maintenance of the grounds for three years after any transfer of lease. In the case of the latter, the Council would be bankrolling the grounds maintenance while forgoing control over the nature and quality of the works carried out.
While the information document sent to Llanelli Town Council details ambitious plans for expenditure in the first year, no indication is given as to how a small company with a negative net book value would be able to access funding for such schemes without further dipping into the public purse for grant support.
Perhaps part of the answer to that question lies in the web of directorships, links to so-called ‘wealth management’ companies, and offshore corporations that seem to lie at Loca Ventures’ heart.
The activities of Loca’s ‘introducer’, Tony Rees, which included a display of finger-pointing anger at a meeting of the Park Howard Association held recently which was attended by some local councillors and Llanelli MP Nia Griffith, combined with the cloak and dagger way negotiations have proceeded, have caused widespread disquiet.
Hengoed councillor Sian Caiach told us: “I’m shocked that our head of corporate property, Jonathan Fearn, and other officers are negotiating a deal to sell off this park and stately home without even informing Llanelli Councillors like myself and certainly not informing the public!”
The Chair of the Parc Howard Association is UKIP election candidate Ken Rees. However, a release from UKIP states appears to distance itself from its would-be MP.
“UKIP Llanelli would like to confirm that it was not previously aware of any meetings that have taken place between Ken Rees, the Chairman of the Parc Howard Association and the private company Loca Ventures regarding the future of Parc Howard. Any meetings that Ken Rees has taken part in regarding Parc Howard will have been done in his own capacity as Chairman of the Parc Howard Association and not as a representative from UKIP. Carmarthenshire Country Council has also reportedly met with this private company Loca Ventures to discuss the future of the Parc but have released no details.
“UKIP is fully committed to the future of Parc Howard, we also believe that it should remain in the public’s hands and run for the benefit of the people of Llanelli and for future generations to enjoy. UKIP believes that on all important local issues such as this the public should be kept fully informed, it should be up to the people of Llanelli who decide what the future of Parc Howard is.
“UKIP would therefore hold a local referendum if there was any proposal regarding a change of ownership of Parc Howard: let’s let the people of Llanelli decide, not the politicians.”
We spoke to Labour’s Calum Higgins, who told us: “We want Parc Howard kept in public hands and transferring ownership is something we would totally oppose. It’s not been done in a transparent way, and we are finding we are unable to get information from the council about the transaction.”
Cllr Higgins continued: “We will be leading the campaign to get the answers the public want and will be asking tough questions of the Council to make sure that information is out in the open.”
The Herald understands that the County Council is targeting seven parks in Llanelli, including Parc Howard and People’s Park.
The mansion house and grounds were gifted to the community of Llanelli in 1912 by Sir Stafford and Lady Howard who acquired the former Buckley Estate and gifted a 999-year lease to the then Llanelli Urban Council on terms that included
The estate to be laid out by a competent gardener as a people’s park
The house to be converted into a local museum or otherwise used for the benefit or enjoyment of the public
The whole to be kept in order in order for the purpose to which it is devoted
No intoxicating liquor to be sold on any part of the house or councils grounds
The rent to be £5 per annum and the work to be completed (so) that the park can be opened to the public on 21st September, 1912
In its edition dated January 4 1912, The Llanelly Mercury said: “We hope that these conditions will be sufficiently safeguarded in the deed of transfer, so as not to allow any quibbling over matters in the future.”
The current lease is held by Carmarthenshire County Council.
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Werndale Hospital recognised for outstanding patient care in national award
STAFF at Werndale Hospital near Carmarthen have been recognised for the quality of their patient care.
The prestigious ‘Private Hospital Group of the Year’ award is presented to an organisation that has shown excellence in its delivery of care, commitment to the community and innovation within healthcare.
Werndale Hospital was also recognised for their initiatives to support staff in their career progression and wellbeing.
The latest statistics show, 98% of patients at Werndale Hospital were satisfied with their overall level of care, 98% of patients would recommend their care to family and friends, and 98% of patients rated the nursing staff as excellent or very good.
In addition, independent analysis of Circle hospitals’ hip and knee procedure outcomes of health improvement shows that Circle scored 8.4 versus an independent sector average of 7.8 in the hip category, and a score of 15.4 versus an independent sector average of 13.9 in the knee category.
The award presented to Circle Health Group, owners of Werndale Hospital, in London in June, also noted the extraordinary contribution the teams at the hospital had made to the community.
In 2021 alone, Werndale Hospital partnered with Air Ambulance Wales and raised £1,205 to support the charity’s work in the community.
In addition to the charitable work, Werndale Hospital was recognised for it’s commitment to support staff through a series of wellbeing initiatives and career development opportunities. The judges were particularly impressed with the launch of the ‘Be Heard’ survey at the hospital.
The survey looks to empower staff to feedback on everything from the working environment at the hospital through to their own career ambitions. Building directly on the feedback from this survey, the ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign was launched which supported staff to work towards specific qualifications from nursing degrees with partnered universities through to bespoke management programmes and MBA qualifications.
As a direct result of this support for staff at what is a challenging time for healthcare workers, Werndale Hospital and Circle Heath Group were recognised as being a Top 20 Best Large Company to work for.
At the heart of Werndale Hospital’s approach to treating patients is a commitment to the community they serve.
Paolo Pieri, CEO of Circle Health Group, said: “The award is a testament to what an amazing year 2021 was for Werndale Hospital with considerable investment into the facilities and services on offer to patients in west Wales. I couldn’t be prouder of what our staff and doctors have achieved.”
Aberglasney Gardens delighted to win 2022 Trip advisor Travellers’ Choice Award
ABERGLASNEY Gardens is thrilled to have been recognised by Tripadvisor as a 2022 Travellers’ Choice Award winner for being in the top 10% of attractions worldwide.
The Award recognises businesses that consistently deliver great service with the Gardens being rated ‘Excellent’ by 342 visitors.
The award celebrates businesses that have received great traveller reviews from around the globe on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months. As challenging as the past year has been, Aberglasney stood out by consistently delivering positive experiences to visitors.
Aberglasney’s Director of Operations Jim Stribling said: “We are delighted to have once again won an award from Tripadvisor. It is fantastic recognition for the team’s hard work and dedication. To rank among the top ten percent of those listed on Trip Advisor as one of the best places to visit is outstanding.
“We are grateful to all those who take the time to leave us a review after visiting. It is no cliché when I say all the team, be it in the gift shop, the gardeners, the tearooms and the administrative team, all take the reviews on board to help make a visit to Aberglasney the best possible experience for everyone.”
Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travellers, from planning, to booking, to taking a trip. Travelers across the globe use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.
With more than 988 million reviews and opinions of nearly eight million businesses, travellers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodation, book experiences, reserve tables at restaurants and discover great places nearby.
As a travel guidance company available in 43 markets and 22 languages, Tripadvisor makes planning easy no matter the trip type.
“Congratulations to the 2022 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Winners,” said Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer at Tripadvisor. “The Travellers’ Choice Awards recognise the best in tourism and hospitality, according to those who matter most: your guests.
“Ranking among the Travellers’ Choice winners is always tough – but never more so than this year as we emerge from the pandemic. Whether it’s using new technology, implementing safety measures, or hiring outstanding staff, I’m impressed by the steps you’ve taken to meet travellers’ new demands. You’ve adapted brilliantly in the face of adversity.”
Council’s plan to expand bilingual education will be a gradual journey over 10 years
CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s vision to increase bilingual education in Carmarthenshire will be a gradual journey over 10 years.
The Cabinet met yesterday (Monday, July 4) to discuss the Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP), and emphasised that it was important to give all children and young people the opportunity to develop their Welsh language skills.
However, members stressed that families will still have a choice on the language in which their children will be taught over the next decade and after 2032.
The plan sets out how the council will develop Welsh language provision in schools based on the outcomes and targets set by the Welsh Government.
All councils across Wales have to submit 10-year Welsh language education plans to the Welsh Government in order to meet its target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.
The outcomes include more nursery and reception children being taught through the medium of Welsh; more young people studying for qualifications in Welsh as a subject, and subjects through the medium of Welsh; increasing provision for learners with Additional Learning Needs; and increasing the number of teachers able to teach Welsh and through the medium of Welsh – with continuing support to develop staff through a comprehensive and flexible training programme.
The Cabinet said it was important for the council to provide more opportunities to be bilingual and referred to the various benefits it brings – from educational attainment to employability and health.
Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language, Cllr Glynog Davies said the aim was to meet and exceed the target set by Welsh Government on the percentage of Carmarthenshire pupils receiving their education through the medium of Welsh by 3032 (10-14%).
It included changing the language provision at 10 schools over the next 10 years creating an opportunity for a further 300 learners to be educated in Welsh.
He said: “We want to build on the progress made in early years education provision, and my ambition is clear – equal opportunities across the county.
“It is worth noting that we have the largest percentage 57.5 percent of nursery age children taught through the medium of Welsh. Immersion education is key to the strategy, and it is important that we continue to see an increase in the percentage of children transferring from the Meithrin groups to Welsh-medium education in the Foundation Phase.
“These early years are so important, the children are like sponges, absorbing information and absorbing a new language.
“We must then continue to see an increase in numbers in our reception classes, we say this even though we are the authority with the largest percentage (62.5 percent) of children receiving their education through the medium of Welsh.
“Children must continue to improve their Welsh when going from one school phase to another, and we need to make sure all children have the opportunity to pursue their secondary education through the medium of Welsh.
“At the same time, we need to give children and young people the confidence to use Welsh, in school and in the community. That’s what we want to see isn’t it, more and more using Welsh, hearing Welsh on the street. We need to develop and build on skills and confidence.”
Cabinet Member for Rural Affairs and Planning Policy, Cllr Ann Davies said: “I am extremely pleased to see this document and have a pleasure in supporting it. Working with young children, that is children under three-years-old, I can say that children pick up language very quickly, they absorb it, and the process is very different to learning a language. As they get older the process in the brain is completely different. I am pleased to see that there is an emphasis on early years, that is when we need to start.”
Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said: “It is very important to state that there are many advantages to learning a language, obviously for careers, especially in health and social care where patients and clients must have a choice of language, it’s important particularly for older people, and young children, and people with dementia.
“The Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police has stated he is keen for all his staff to speak a certain level of Welsh, so we have a duty here to support that.
“The advantages of being bilingual are multiple, socially and in the world of work, and this strategy is very much welcomed.”
The WESP has come back to the cabinet for discussion following feedback from the Welsh Government, mainly to include some additional data and detail. It will now be submitted to the Welsh Government for final approval. A public consultation was held last year.
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